Posts Tagged ‘Special Needs Education’

Ruairi Quinn – what a disappointment!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011


“My heart goes out to any parent with a child with special needs,” he said this morning. “I’m blessed that I’m not in that position. One couldn’t but empathise with the anguish and the energy that parents with a child with special needs display. Any mother, any father would go through the wall for their child and I understand that.

“What I’m saying is the amount of special needs teachers has grown exponentially since the time they were introduced and we’re going to look at how to use them more effectively.

“The Republic of Ireland has lost its economic sovereignty. We are effect in receivership. We don’t control our financial destiny at the present time. We can only get the money to pay a lot of people based on the terms of the troika bailout deal,” he said.

Addressing the INTO conference yesterday, he warned teacher union delegates of a stark and difficult road ahead. In his first address as Minister for Education, he outlined the range and extent of the economic crisis and said he wanted to be frank about the resources available.

The Minister said that “the budget figures for 2011 will stand and will not be reviewed” and there was no commitment to reverse the 10,575 cap on the number of special needs assistants.

The Minister stressed that resources for education would not be improved, and that earlier decisions would not be reversed.

“To put it bluntly, the money dispensed by ATMs to all public servants . . . is made available to Ireland by the European Central Bank at fortnightly intervals. Every two weeks the governor of the Irish Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, has to confirm to the ECB that Ireland is meeting the terms of the bailout,” Mr Quinn said.

He reminded delegates that there was a trade-off to be made for the Croke Park agreement that included a net reduction in teacher numbers in 2011.

These are Ruairi Quinn’s words yesterday at the INTO conference in his first speeech as Minister. This hard man talk is really easy to do when you are talking about depriving special needs children of their education – after all they can’t exactly do anything about it!

It is not empathy we want as parents of special needs children – we want action – and that action is just to implement Governmment Policy of  the last 20 years as set out in the Salamanca Statement and is actually in legislation with the EPSEN Act 2006.  Why be so dam arroagant about what can and cannot be done – why was that same attitude and beligerance not found when ex AIB Managing Director  Colm Doherty walked away with Ruair Quinns Blessing with 3 million euro of unearned income. Where was all the fighting talk when it came to renegotiating the terms of the bailout -as Mr Quinn’s party said they would do before being elected.

Another fraud has just been  perpertrated on the Irish people by electing a Government who promised us real Change but who have in actual fact not only brought no change – but have reiterated that they actually don’t intend changing anything.

Blaming the EU for not having the courage to implememt real change is not something you should be proud of Mr Quinn. Reforms that are needed are ultimately cost beneficial.

“Any mother, any father would go through the wall for their child and I understand that” ….. actions speak louder than words – I am sure that must have come up in one of those stories read to you at bedtime! SHAME ON YOU!

Teachers- interesting take!

Monday, March 7th, 2011
teachersThis is taken a very interesting website!
Teachers as Second Chance!


The great psychologist and contemporary of Freud, Alfred Adler (1870-1937) stated over and over again that the teacher was the second chance for every student. So powerful was the influence of the teacher that Adler believed he or she could overcome nearly all of the mistakes in child rearing the parents had made. The critically important role of the classroom teacher, in both primary and secondary school, is becoming firmly underpinned by new neuroscientific research. In this article I will address this important role from a number of viewpoints: neuroscience, cultural tradition, proverbs and poetry. The purpose of this article is to stimulate interest in my thesis and inspire teachers to believe in themselves as healing agents in the lives of children and adolescents.

A Story to Begin

All life is a story, lived forward, understood backwards , but a story none the less. So we will begin with an excerpt from a children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. In this book, essentially a fable about the restorative power of love, Williams tells the tale of a little boy who is given a stuffed rabbit as a toy. He is a sickly child and has been gifted with many toys. Indeed, the nursery is filled with toys, stuffed, mechanical, toys of all sorts. The rabbit he is given has real thread whiskers and a round bottom. It can’t stand up on its own and tends to fall over if not held. The velveteen rabbit becomes the best loved of all the toys in the nursery as the boy hugs it and kisses it each day and night for many days.

Well, toys being what they are do get jealous and so it transpires that the other toys in the nursery get angry with the rabbit and begin to make fun of it. “You’re not real” they say with scorn. The mechanical toys are especially vicious. They tell the rabbit that they know he isn’t real because he can’t move like they can. All these insulting horrible comments hurt the rabbit deeply and, in a desperate attempt to make sense of his world he turns to the wisest toy in the nursery, the skinless horse.

You see, the skinless horse had once been the child’s favourite toy; so loved, kissed and hugged that his fur had been worn off and his button eyes were falling out. But the love he had received had made him wise and honest and now, sitting in the back of the boy’s closet with all the other discarded toys, he enjoyed the status of a wise elder.
The velveteen rabbit approached the skinless horse and told him he was being jeered and mocked by the other toys. He told him what they said, that he wasn’t “real” and ask the skinless horse a profound question, though the rabbit didn’t know it was profound: “What is real?” Well, the skinless horse, being wise as a result of having been loved, answered, “Real isn’t something you are, its something you become. It takes a long time.” The rabbit pondered this answer and then asked another weighty question: “Does it hurt to become real?”
The skinless horse, being wise and trustful had this to say in response: “Yes, it hurts to become real. Sometimes before you are real all your skin is rubbed off and one eye is hanging out. That’s why becoming real doesn’t often happen to things with sharp edges.”

At this point I want to remind my readers that, like the educational philosopher Friedreich Froebel, I believe that the power of stories is intrinsic and needs no explanation. So I will not tell you about the story or reveal its moral, I will let its truth find its way into your heart.

The Neuroscience of the Second Chance

Nearly all educators have studied attachment theory sometime during their course of study to prepare as a qualified educator. Attachment theory, originally espoused by John Bowlby, posits that the “bond” between mother and infant lays down important patterns of development that influence the child’s adjustment and behaviour. Bowlby spoke of the bond between mother and child but subsequent researchers have recognised that attachment arises out of the bond between the primary caregiver, male or female, between caregiver and infant. Attachments can be either “secure” or “insecure”.

A secure attachment helps the child feel loved and lovable. A child who feels this way will go out in the world and be able to interact with other children and adults in a productive way. This child will believe that people care, will respond to their needs, and comfort them when necessary. This child will also be able to enter the world of new facts, figures and knowledge without undue anxiety. On the other hand a child who is insecurely attached will develop the opposite belief patterns. This child will find it hard to trust adults and to believe adults are comforting people. This child will find it difficult to learn new facts because it will be too anxiety provoking to do so. Either way our initial attachments lay down important neural pathways that result in the internal templates through which we view the world.

Recent neuroscientific research has uncovered a group of neurons located in the brain called mirror neurons. This interesting group of neurons play an important role in social cognition and social relationships. Mirror neurons are activated when we do something: play music, dance, move our hands or arms for example. Incredibly, they also activate when we watch someone do the same thing. In other words, mirror neurons are the electrical-chemical substrates that facilitate all social interaction. They activate when we smile and when we see a smile. They activate when we or others frown. They respond to non-verbal behaviour that we observe in others. Mirror neurons can be said to be the glue of social relationships.

It is the mirror neurons that are largely responsible for the formation of attachment, secure or insecure. But because they continue to grow and develop as we age these neuron remain important mediators in how we humans get along with one another. When a child in a classroom sees a teacher’s smiling face the child responds with feelings of comfort. If they see a frown or cross expression they generate similar emotions within themselves. The important role of mirror neurons makes it possible for the teacher to correct attachments when they are not secure. This correction lays down new and positive templates helping a child to feel loved, cared for and nurtured, not only in the classroom but in the wider world.

The Poetry of the Second Chance

In the early 20th century in America a lawyer began to write poetry. Edgar Lee Masters was a scholar of Greek and Latin. His studies had led him to a collection of Greek poetry known as the Greek Anthology. These were short poems and epigrams written from the point of view of famous and unknown people, deceased and commenting on their lives. Entranced with the Greek Anthology, Masters wrote Spoon River Anthology , a collection of post-modern” epitaphs” of former citizens of the fictitious Spoon River, Illinois.

Three of his poems speak loudly to the notion that the teacher is the second chance for every pupil and student. I will quote each of the three poems in turn and have a few words to say about each in relation to my thesis.

Henry Layton
Whoever thou are who passest by
Know that my father was gentle,
And my mother was violent,
While I was born the whole of such hostile halves,
Not intermixed and fused,
But each distinct, feebly soldered together.
Some of you saw me as gentle,
Some as violent,
Some as both.
But neither half of me wrought my ruin.
It was the falling asunder of halves,
Never a part of each other,
That left me a lifeless soul.

Powerful truths speak out from this poem. The deep polarity of gentleness and violence are mixed together in one personality. However they are not fused into a union of opposite and the result is that people never noticed the whole person, only one half or the other. The falling apart of halves which was the inevitable consequence of life led without a union of its parts.

Is it possible that the teacher is a “welder of souls”? Is it possible that in being the second chance for every child we can fuse opposites into a union and totality? Is it possible that we can help those children and adolescents who come to us as a collection of sharp edges become “real”?

Emily Sparks

Where is my boy, my boy-
In what far part of the world?
The boy I loved best of all in the school?-
I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
Who made them all my children.
Did I know my boy aright,
Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
Active, ever aspiring?
Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
In many a watchful hour at night,
Do you remember the letter I wrote you
Of the beautiful love of Christ?
And whether you ever took it or not,
My boy, wherever you are,
Work for your soul’s sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
May yield to the fire of you,
Till the fire is nothing but light1
Nothing but light!

The village school teacher with a pure heart, the teacher who made all the children her children, sees the light inside this boy. She recognises him as containing the opposites of clay and dross and beseeches him to yield to the goodness of the burning flame within him to unite these opposites. Here again Masters perceives the incredible and unknowable conflict of opposites contained within the human soul. Here again he underscores the vital importance of uniting these opposites. Only this time he inserts the teacher as the healing agent.

Well, what of Emily Sparks and her exhortation to her boy? Well, as it happens the boy himself lies in the Cemetery of Spoon River and reminisces about his teacher.

Rueben Pantier”
 Well, Emily Sparks, your prayers were not wasted,
Your love was not all in vain.
I owe whatever I was in life
To your hope that would not give me up,
To your love that saw me still as good.
Dear Emily Sparks, let me tell you the story.
I pass the effect of my father and mother,
The milliner’s daughter made me trouble
And out I went in the world,
Where I passed through every peril known
Of wine and women and joy of life.
One night, in a room in the Rue de Rivoli,
I was drinking wine with a black-eyed cocotte,
And the tears swam into my eyes.
She thought they were amorous tears and smiled         �
For thought of her conquest over me.
But my soul was three thousand miles away,
In the days when you taught me in Spoon River.
And just because you no more could love me,
Nor pray for me, nor write me letters,
The eternal silence of you spoke instead.
And the black-eyed cocotte took the tears for hers,
As well as the deceiving kisses I gave her.
Somehow, from that hour, I had a new vision-
Dear Emily Sparks!

In this most remarkable poem Masters unites the teacher and the student in the broken life of a boy saved across time and space by the healing, silent memories of his teacher. Not just any teacher but the teacher who never gave up on him, who would saw him still as good despite the trouble of his life. The teacher who loved him “best of all the school”. What a wonderful reverie on the healing and life-saving role of the teacher. Masters, the millionaire lawyer and poet knew in his heart what Adler, attachments theorists and contemporary neuroscientists are now proving: the teacher is the second chance for every child.

Proverbs and the Second Chance
Bí go maith leis an ngarlach agus tiocfaidh sé amárach.
Be good to the child and he will come to you tomorrow.

Is society in general being good to the child? Where is the goodness in a Department of Education that spends millions of euro in the high court fighting the legal actions of parents of children with autism rather than fund, establish, resource and appropriate educational programmes for them? Where is the goodness in a Heath Executive that permits the child and adolescent psychiatric service to be stifled with horrendous waiting lists? Where is the goodness in teacher training programmes that spend little time preparing mainstream teachers to teach children with special needs while at the same time fostering the notion that every qualified teacher is also a qualified special education teacher? Where is the goodness that permits the Department of Education and Science to provide so little continuing professional development and not to reward those who do complete it with an increased salary allowance? It is a wonder, in view of the above, that our children come to us tomorrow.

Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
Praise the young and they will blossom.

Although seemingly a good notion to praise children the proverb fails to appreciate the power of encouragement over praise. Praise is external, coming from the powerful adult world in school. Praise focuses on the product a child has produced and is highly dependent on the arbitrary decisions a teacher has made about what standard of work to praise. Slow learners and performers in school do not receive much praise as so often the bar is set too high. Encouragement focuses on the effort a child has put into completing their work. Encouragement focuses no the feelings children have when they put sufficient effort into work and the feelings they have when they don’t.
Mitigating against the power these lovely proverbs have is the social reality that children have few rights vested under Irish law, social policy or the constitution itself. The potential of the teacher to be a second chance for every child is reduced by social factors including large class size, small classrooms, limited teaching resources, the pressurised curriculum at both primary and secondary level and the crushing weight of an exam-driven secondary educational system which places value primary on how many students go on to third-level education as opposed to how many students leave school equipped to live a life of dignity, self-respect, self-confidence and the ability to be contributing members of society.


In writing this piece I have focused on the healing role of the teacher in the life of every child. I have underscored this notion with evidence from a founding figure of psychology, from a children’s story and from poetry, from attachment theory, from the neurosciences and from Irish proverbial wisdom about children. I have introduced the mitigating factors of society-at-large and the role of those who dictate to us how families, children and teachers have to live their lives-our government and its policy makers.

It is true that the teacher is the second chance. I encourage teachers to meditate on this basic fact and to recognise that their highest worth is not to be determined by how much knowledge they instil but rather on the impact of their healing role in the lives of children who bring to them “sharp edges.”


More Special Needs Cuts!

Sunday, February 27th, 2011


FURY erupted last night over a decision to deprive children with severe disabilities from getting a second full year of pre-schooling, the Irish Independent has learned.

The move, which will save less than €500,000 a year, will hit families of Down Syndrome children, those with autism and other severe disabilities.

Many had assumed their children could avail of a second year, but now their hopes have been dashed.

Instead, they have been given the option of a full year starting in September, with their children attending Monday to Friday, or splitting the provision over two years.

The INTO last night described the move as a “shocking and mean spirited” decision by the Government, which had promised as far back as 2002 to ensure early education services for children and prioritise children with disabilities.

The highly successful free Early Childhood Care and Education pre-school year began in January 2010. An overwhelming 94pc of eligible children are now participating in the scheme.

About 170 children with severe disabilities were allowed to avail of a second full year starting last September. They were approved on a case by case basis.

But Children’s Minister Barry Andrews‘ office has decided this will not be available to children starting in September this year.

A spokesman for the minister said the 170 children were allowed to enrol in the second year because the first free pre-school year was a “short” one”, having started in January 2010 and finishing in June.

“No child at any stage has ever been approved for two full years,” he told the Irish Independent.


But the decision has angered many parents. “As parents, we will not sit on the fence on this. Our children are already facing sweeping reductions in services due to drastic cutbacks,” said Down Syndrome Dublin chairperson Miriam Masterson.

She said the decision could not even be considered a cost-saving measure, when these same people will, in later years, require a lot more help than if they had been given the best start from the outset.

Irish Preschool Play Association chief executive Irene Gunning said the decision was very disappointing as it had not been signalled in advance and parents had an expectation of a second year.

However, Fine Gael last night held out the prospect of reversing the decision. Fine Gael education spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd said the party was committed to spending €20m on a First Step programme to help disadvantaged pre-school children. He said this would include those with severe disabilities.

“A Republic is judged by the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Mr O’Dowd added.

– John Walshe Education Editor

Irish Independent 19th February 2011

Enrolment Policies in Schools- the big problem in our Education System

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

School enrolment policies

Tuesday January 11 2011

AFTER more than 40 years of free education, isn’t it incredible that we are still playing out the game of education on a pitch skewed by discrimination, class consciousness, income and family background?

There is a belief in the minds of some that they do not have to deal with what they consider the unpleasant business of problem students, Travellers, students with special needs and, generally anyone who might impact on their self-constructed coziness.

Irish education is not played out on a level pitch and a detailed study of schools’ admission policies reveals the common thread — that many of them have devised imaginative ways of setting the slope on the pitch:

-By giving preference to the brothers or sisters of existing students or children of former pupils.

– By reserving places for certain feeder schools or parishes.

-By reserving places for the children of full-time members of staff.

-By taking applications only from students who are in third or fourth class in their primary feeder schools and who have an €800 non-refundable deposit.

-By requiring parents to have the resources to participate in an “induction weekend”.

-By telling parents at the open evening that they want only “honours students”.

 This list is not exhaustive. In some schools the restrictions are innocent and simply exist by custom and practice. In others, however, they are very carefully crafted to enable the school to “cherry pick” its intake. In many towns the length and breadth of the country, this covert form of social apartheid is in operation.

The Department of Education is well aware of this but, like so many problems, refuses to deal with it until, as with the banking crisis, it becomes unmanageable.

Why do I say this? Back in 2007 the department carried out an audit of admission policies with particular reference to assessing the treatment of pupils with special educational needs, Travellers and newcomers who arrived here to settle. The survey looked at about 50pc of schools in limited geographic areas and, perhaps most significantly of all, did not include any fee-paying schools. Notwithstanding that fundamental flaw, it threw up some astonishing results.

Schools in the vocational and community sector bore an unequal representation of pupils with special needs, and Traveller and newcomer backgrounds in comparison with their secondary counterparts. Perhaps the most staggering statistic from that report and the one that would leave any reader speechless was the revelation that in one mixed vocational school in the West 55.84pc of the pupils had special educational needs whereas in the same small geographic area two secondary schools had just 2.5pc of pupils with special needs. This is not something that just happens by accident.

The then minister, Mary Hanafin, decided to go into consultation mode and, in a letter to management bodies and other agencies asking them to comment on the audit findings, set the stage for the replies by advising that “the audit did not find evidence of problematic enrolment practice on a system-wide scale”.

At the time the department received about 18 replies from parents’ bodies, unions, management bodies, the National Education Welfare Board and the Equality Tribunal. The responses reveal a deep-seated and fractious divide across a plethora of fault lines among the various parties.

However, one line was strong and clear: unions and the vocational and community patronage bodies favour more regulation and an end to discrimination whereas the religious patronage representative bodies, quite simply, are not up for change. Why should they be, hasn’t the slope run with them for a long time now?

There is no doubt that the nettle of discriminatory enrolment policies and covert means of cherry picking pupils will have to be grasped and grasped quickly as the enrolment season opens because there is now the unavoidable issue that every policy which sets down discriminatory criteria for applicants is unlawful and there are a great many such policies all around the country.

There is a real opportunity for the department to learn from the bitter experience we have had in the banking sector that soft-touch regulation is not good public policy in an area where those with vested interests can take unfair advantage.

Rather than require individuals to vindicate their rights before bodies like the Equality Tribunal, the department must now step up to the plate and manage this proactively. As we look to what is undoubtedly a future of diminished resources and expenditure in education, it is now time for the State to level the pitch and to draft and implement a set of admission regulations which all state-recognised and state-funded schools will have to abide by or run the risk of having their recognition and funding withdrawn.

Some will read this and say these are side issues that we are now too broke to tackle. To them I respond that these are core issues and, fundamentally, they are part of the reason why we are broke now.

Gearoid O Bradaigh

Gearoid is a practising barrister and consultant on school management issues and former CEO of Westmeath VEC

taken from Irish Independent Tuesday 11th January

Mainstream Education for Special Needs Children- Significant Research!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010



There is a strong research base to support the education of children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers. Although seperate classes, with lower student to teacher ratios, controlled environments, and specially trained staff would seem to offer benefits to a child with a disability, research fails to demonstrate the effectiveness of such programs. (Lipsky, 1997; Sailor 2003).

There is mounting evidence that, other than smaller class size, there is little that is special about the special education system, and that the negative effects of seperating children with disabilities from their peers far outweigh any benefit to smaller classes (Audette & Algozzine, 1997; Lipsky, 1997)

Students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms show academic gains in a number of areas, including improved performance on standardised tests, mastery of IEP (Individual Education Plans) goals, grades, on-task behaviour and motivation to learn ( National Centre for Education Restructuring and Inclusion, 1995).

Moreover, placement in inclusive classrooms does not interfere with the academic performance of students without disabilities with respect to the amount of allocated time and engaged instructional time, the rate of interruption to planned activities and students’ achievement on test scores and report grades. (York, Vandercook,MacDonald, Heise-Neff, and Caughey,1992).

The types of instructional strategies found in inclusive classrooms, including peer tutoring, cooperative learning groups, and differentiated instruction have been shown to be beneficial to all learners. For example, Slavin, Madden, & Leavy (1984) found that math scores for students with and without disabilities increased by nearly half a grade level as a result of working in cooperative learning groups.

In addition, children with intellectual disabilities educated in general education settings have been found to score higher on literacy measures than students educated in segregated settings (Buckley, 2000).

A national survey by Public Agenda, When its Your Child : A Report on Special Education from the Families Who Use It, revealed that a large majority (70 percent) of the parents sya that too many children with special needs lose out because their parents don’t know what’s available to them. More than half (55%) said that parents don’t know what’s available to them. More than half (55%) said that parents have to find out on their own what service and supports are available. This finding underscores the need to provide more training and information to parents on how the special education process works and thier rights.

National Council for Special Education – A help or a hindrance?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE)NCSE_logo_03

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was set up to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. The Council was first established as an independent statutory body by order of the Minister for Education and Science in December 2003.

Their local service is delivered through their national network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) who interact with parents and schools and liaise with the HSE in providing resources to support children with special educational needs.

 A  key aim of the Council is to progressively improve the co-ordination between the education and health sectors in providing the supports for children with special educational needs. They are doing this through participation in the Education/Health Cross Sectoral Group which includes representation from the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Health and Children and the HSE at national level and through interaction with the HSE and their service providers at local level.

They now have a substantial research programme under way and will soon be publishing the results of the first of the projects. This research they claim will help to inform best practice in the special education area and provide a basis for developing policy advice as appropriate. Does this imply that the the Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education is not the policy?

The remit of the Council will be significantly extended as the EPSEN Act 2004 is commenced. While certain sections of the Act have been commenced, the implementation of key sections which confers statutory rights to assessment, education plans and appeals processes on children with special educational needs has been deferred due to the current economic circumstances. However, the Council will continue to work towards achieving the ambitions of the Act in every way possible, pending its commencement.

Why aren’t the Council protesting that they cannot do their work properly because of cutbacks?

The Council’s research report on the  Role of Special Schools and Classes in Ireland is a very poor and would suggest that the council will soon become part of the problem rather than a provider of solutions!

This council despite it’s good intentions is failing miserably to effect change in Special Needs Education and given that it does nothing to fight cutbacks that dramatically affect special needs education – its’ members should do the decent thing and resign!




Inclusion or Illusion?

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

a studyThe first comprehensive nationwide study of national and special needs schools, reviewing education for primary school children with mild general learning disabilities and detailing the adequacies and shortcomings of the present system, was recently launched in Trinity College Dublin.( May 2009)



The book, entitled Inclusion or Illusion, is a comprehensive study of pupils with mild general learning disabilities, who are educated in mainstream and special classes in national schools and designated special needs schools throughout Ireland. These students form the largest section of Ireland’s special needs education population. Authors, Professor  of Education, Mona O’Moore of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Education and Dr Paul Stevens, School Principal of Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa, Castletownbere, Co Cork, gathered data from over 900 teachers between 1989 and 2007 for this research.



The study illustrates improvements in school facilities, educational resources and an increase in the number of special needs teachers all directly attributable to government investment. Equally, the study identifies serious difficulties within the education sector, associated with systemic issues of inadequate capacity, structural deficiencies and unaddressed anomalies which are multi-faceted, intangible and complex. These include poor levels of inclusive practice, inappropriate pupil placement, and a severe lack of access to appropriate support services.



Based on teachers’ own experiences and combined with a history of state policy in the area of special needs education the book assesses the developments that have been made in this field so far, what the barriers are to progression, and what can be done to overcome these. 

“Special education is currently a key issue for society and the Government. The aim of this book is to provide readers with an understanding of educational provision in Irish primary schools for children with Mild General Learning Disabilities (MGLD)”, stated Professor Mona O’Moore. “More than half of the school-going special needs population falls into this category making this book an invaluable resource for teachers, student teachers, policy makers as well as educational and support professionals.”

Hazel Court – a model for the future!

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Peter Gordon runs Hazel Court school, a special school in Eastbourne for children with severe learning difficulties – 70 per cent of pupils are autistic – on the same site as a mainstream school. He also runs a further education unit for 16- to 19-year-olds alongside a local FE college.

He believes his students get the best of both worlds. “We’ve got specialised staff and superb facilities here. We’ve got a hydrotherapy pool and a soft play area, but we’ve also got access to two dining halls, an assembly hall, sports facilities and the library in the mainstream school.

“Half our children go to some lessons in the mainstream school, and loads of their youngsters come over to us every day to help with classes. They look at what our children achieve, and learn to have respect for them. This is quite a deprived part of Eastbourne, but we’ve never had one incident of bullying. We share the same uniform and we join in on school trips.

“There is a strong argument for having children with moderate difficulties in mainstream schools, but the curriculum needs to be totally different for children with severe difficulties. I’ve seen children stuck in a classroom, isolated, where staff have no support and can’t call in a psychologist or language therapist. It’s heart-breaking. You do need specialised provision, but co-location is definitely the best way to do it.” HW

Batt O Keefe TD Minister for Education and Science making renewed enquiries!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Batt O Keefe T.D. Minister for Education and Science has informed us that he is making renewed enquiries about our issues. Let’s hope that he takes a personal interest in this case as we feel that unless he or somebody at his level intervenes then it will be rather more time consuming for us to succeed in achieving our objectives.

St Michaels House Special Needs School Skerries- not a priority for this Government

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Below is a copy letter

Mr Batt O’Keefe T.D.
Minister for Education and Science
Office of the Minister for Education and Science
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1

September 14, 2009

Your Ref: 0904528 BC

Dear Mr O Keefe

Further to your letter of 2nd September 2009 – I am writing for further clarification in relation to the matters I raised.

1 You say that the application to your Department for funding for a new school has been assigned a 1.2 band rating. What does that mean?

2. Is there a site for the new school selected and paid for?
3. How many pupils will the new school cater for?
4. You say that it “is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time” Why not? It should always be possible to give an indicative timeframe.

It is extremely disappointing and distressing that you and your department would appear to be treating this matter is such a casual way. The building of this new school should be a priority because of the unacceptable condition of the existing school. Furthermore a new school building accommodating the needs of special needs children in Fingal will have an enormous impact on so many people’s lives.

There was no problem spending over €250,000 refurbishing an existing office for Bertie Ahern- but the education needs of special needs children in Fingal have to wait? I think this is a disgrace and I urge you to address this issue as a matter of supreme urgency.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Faithfully

Tommy Boyle